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Nielsen, the TV-tracking firm, confirmed today that Twitter chatter isn’t all hot air. In a study, Twitter buzz showed a strong relationship to actual TV ratings.

“While our study doesn’t prove causality, the correlation we uncovered is significant, and we will continue our research to deepen the industry’s understanding of this relationship,” said Nielsen media anaytics VP Mike Hess in an announcement on the news.

In addition to giving Twitter the official nod on ratings correlation, Nielsen also identified Twitter as one of the top three indicators of how a show will rate, along with ratings from the previous year and advertising spend.

In a nutshell, the study showed that a swell in Twitter chatter about a show correlated to a smaller swell in TV ratings. The bump was more noticeable in younger audiences (ages 18 to 34) and less pronounced for more mature TV viewers (ages 35 to 49).

For the younger group, an 8.5 percent rise in Twitter chatter about season premiers meant a one percent increase in ratings. For the older group, a 14 percent increase on Twitter meant a one percent ratings bump.

The highest positive correlation, however, was for the younger group and mid-season episodes, where a 4.2 percent bump on Twitter lined up with a one percent ratings increase.

Nielsen did this study with a third-party social analytics firm, but the TV ratings giant also has a standing partnership with Twitter itself. Called the Nielsen Twitter TV Rating, the new metric established in the partnership was designed to show how socially engaging a given program is based on Twitter users’ conversations and updates.

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